John Mayer at Red Rocks Amphitheatre day two, 7-17-13 (photos, review)By Candace Horgan | July 18th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
“This show is an extension of a dream I’ve had for two years … it’s meant to snap you out of your own craziness,” said John Mayer to a roar of approval early in his second sold out show at Red Rocks Wednesday night.
I’ll freely admit to knowing very little about Mayer before Wednesday’s show. I knew that he seemed to pop up in the tabloids with some regularity due to his hookups with several starlets, and I knew his song “Queen of California,” mostly because KBCO, my alarm clock wakeup station, can’t go five minutes without playing either that or something by Adele.
By the third song Wednesday — a searing version of “Vultures” — it was quite evident that Mayer is seriously underrated in the musical chops department. The boy can PLAY, with a capital P. Not only can he rip solos with aplomb, he isn’t afraid of letting others drive. Unlike many other outstanding guitarists, Mayer shares the stage with two other fierce pickers, Doug Pettibone, who usually tours with Lucinda Williams, and Zane Carney. While Mayer usually took at least a short solo on every song, he was happy to have his fellow guitarists to step up in each song. During the aforementioned “Vultures,” he walked over to stage left near the end of the song and took rhythm duties while smiling at Pettibone’s winding, joyful, tonemonster solo.
Mayer has been a musical chameleon of sorts, as my colleague Matt Miller alluded to in his review of Tuesday’s show. Mayer even addressed that before playing a solo acoustic version of his hit “Your Body is a Wonderland,” saying that he had put that popular song away for several years, thinking he shouldn’t play it, but that he realized his fans would rather hear it. “If I had a ‘Sweet Caroline,’ this would be it; it’s a part of me.” Mayer also played two other songs solo acoustic, including “Neon,” before the full band returned.
About the aforementioned “Queen of California,” which Mayer played late in the set: He stated that it was his favorite song that he had ever written, and was thankful that the crowd was enjoying it, despite his vocal miscues. Evidently Mayer, who suffered from granulomas near his vocal cords a couple of years ago, hasn’t been able to sing the original notes he sang in the recorded version, so he’d been singing it in a lower key. However, he said he’d finally tried the original notes during soundcheck, and he decided to go for it on the last verse, nailing it to the delight of the crowd.
After briefly jamming and letting Carney take a solo, Mayer veered into a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Althea,” wherein he ripped a long and furious solo at the end. In fact, much like the jam lords of yesteryear, Mayer encouraged his band to take extended fills and move the music in different directions on song-ending jams throughout the night. It almost seemed as if Mayer felt that if he wasn’t constrained by the expectations of his pop-leaning audience, he might want to go in the 10-minute song route with extended guitar riffing and exploratory passages.
Perhaps not, however. Mayer gave a short speech before the last song of his set, “Face to Call Home,” in which he said he was grateful that the fans were willing to go on a musical journey with him, that when he changed from his pop roots, they stayed and he didn’t end up recording in his basement. Perhaps Mayer is gradually pushing his fans’ boundaries, as well as his own.
Wildfire, Something Like Olivia, Vultures, I Want You, Age of Worry, Slow Dancing, Waiting on the Day, Who Says, 3×5 (solo), Your Body is a Wonderland (solo), Neon (solo), Paper Doll, Queen of California-> Althea, Trust Myself, Born and Raised, Waiting on the World, Face to Call Home, E: Get Around to Living
Lisa Higginbotham is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. See more of her work here.